Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Wounded Healer

When I started thinking about this listing of ten people who had significant influence on my spiritual journey, Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was one of those who would not go away.  As I worked through the names, he kept making his way back into the group of "soul shapers" that I was trying to identify.  Like many people, my first encounter with this Dutch Roman Catholic priest was through one of his better known writings, "The Wounded Healer."  I remember that first read and the way what he wrote resonated with my journey in ministry.  It  became one of those books that was read several times and kept through the years.  He seemed to understand some of the struggles I claimed in ministry with such insight that I came to the conclusion that though different in many ways, our journeys of faith had much in common.

Over the years I read many of the thing written by Nouwen and learned much about the way he sought to live his life in places where he could serve some of the world's forgotten and pushed aside folks.  But, the other writing which really had an impact on my spiritual journey was "The Return of the Prodigal Son."  When I discovered this book late in my ministry, I thought I had surely read everything which could explain every angle of this parable of Jesus.  Of course, Nouwen proved me wrong.  The inspiration for the book was Rembrandt's painting by the same name.  His writing not only explored the painting, but also revealed Nouwen as a psychologist, theologian, and spiritual leader.  It, too, became a keeper.

While much has been written about this priest's journey of faith, what he wrote always revealed a man of faith who was praying and thinking.  His work had a way of calling me to go beyond the easy to see conclusions when doing scripture work and to understand that real ministry is never done at a distance.  Nouwen's life reminded me again and again that ministry and service cannot be done unless one is willing to risk dirty hands and broken hearts. 

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